Read Matthew 28:16-20
On June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda walked on a tightrope across Niagara Falls in an event televised by ABC. Thousands came to watch his daring stunt. Of course, he was not the first to walk a tightrope across the falls. That honor belongs to a man named Charles Blondin. On June 30, 1859, he became the first man in history to walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Over twenty-five thousand people gathered to watch him walk 1,100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters. He walked without a net or safety harness of any kind. The slightest slip would prove fatal. When he safely reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a mighty roar.
In the days that followed, he would walk across the Falls many times. Once he walked across on stilts; another time he took a chair and a stove with him and sat down midway across, cooked an omelet, and ate it. Once he carried his manager across riding piggyback. On another occasion he asked the cheering spectators if they thought he could push a person across sitting in a wheelbarrow. A mighty roar of approval rose from the crowd. There was no doubt in the crowd that Blondin was able to do it. But when he asked who would like to be the first person to ride, no one was willing to take the risk. They doubted their own ability to put their lives in his hands and trust him.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, when the women encountered the risen Christ at the tomb Jesus told them to carry a message to the Disciples, to meet him in Galilee. (Mt 28:10). Without flinching, they go on and complete their assignment. They ran with joy to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead and would meet them in Galilee. Today, we hear about5 their meeting in Galilee with Jesus. Here’s what happens, verses 16 and 17 of our reading, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” (Matt 28:16-17)
The Disciples gather, and Jesus appears, and it says “some doubted.” I’d like to focus on that doubt this morning.
What did they doubt, I wonder?
• Were they doubting that their own eyes were seeing the risen Jesus?
• Were they doubting that people would believe what they were seeing?
• Or was their “doubt” about something else?
Their doubt could be taken to mean that some were reluctant to bow down and worship. I think that’s what it was. In other words, they did not doubt what they saw or that it was Jesus, rather they doubted their own ability to give him their allegiance.
They were like the crowd watching the tightrope walker. They doubted their own ability to put their lives in his hands and trust him.
And there are still people who struggle with that doubt today. They know about Jesus. They study the Bible. They have no doubt about who Jesus is. They just have doubts about making a commitment to follow Jesus. Will I be able to follow through on all that Jesus’ asks of me? Will I fail? Yes? No? Maybe?
I think all Christians experience that kind of doubt.
I’m going to look at something we say when we confirm our faith, or when we receive members into the church at St. John. These words are found in the front our hymnal under a section titled “Affirmation of Baptism.”
It says there, “You have made public profession of your faith.” You have come to church. We confess our faith in our worship. We say, “I believe in this God who gave his Son to die for me, who promises to be with me forever.” That’s called God’s covenant promise, and we celebrated that promise the day you were baptized. And then it says, Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in Holy Baptism?”
And then there are five indented points, outlining the commitment that we make as members of the church to follow Christ. And I’m going to ask you to read those with me. Ready??
• To live among God’s faithful people,
• To hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper,
• To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
• To serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
• And to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
We understand these words to be Jesus’ calling, Jesus’ mission for us who have been baptized.
There are times when I wish we would ask whether we have questions or doubts about our ability to follow through on those commitments. There are times when I wish we would say a little more often in the church, that doubts and questions are allowed, permitted, expected, because, this is the reality of our faith. Like those first disciples, we too will have questions and doubts.
Notice, that the eleven remaining disciples did not let their doubts keep them from obeying the call of Christ.
They went from the mountain and began to proclaim the good news. They went from the mountain and began to serve people following the example of Jesus. They went from the mountain and began to work for a more just community, where the hungry are fed and the oppressed are cared for.
Today, there is a temptation to think that being a follower of Christ, being a Christian, is all about “going to church” each week. But Christ commissions us, he sends us from the church. When the church service ends, and we head into another week, that’s when our participation in Christ’s mission begins.
The disciples were sent by their risen Lord Jesus to “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”
Yes, we do have a ministry here in the church, caring for people, visiting, welcoming, inviting, teaching, bible study, prayer, serving in many ways. But our Lord Jesus also calls to share the good news in word and deed, where we live and where we work.
All of us have received the same commission from Christ to “go.” Go into the world, go make disciples, and go teach by our words and deeds what it means to live a life committed to our Lord Jesus. We are called to do that as we parent our children, as we mentor and teach our children and youth, as we befriend others in our work and in our community.
Jesus’ commission is really a question: Will you go? Will you make disciples? That is Jesus’ question and it is important to understand that saying “yes” is not to say we are without doubts or questions. We have them, and we are allowed to share them.
But it is also important for us to understand that Jesus goes with us and is willing to use us – all of us.
And so, let us answer together, all of us, using these words that affirm our faith:
“We will and we ask God to help and guide us!”
Thanks be to God! Amen.
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